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15 Celebrities Who Fought in Wars

It might be somewhat hard to imagine, but there have actually been quite a few celebrities that have fought in battles all around the world. Most people can probably agree that it takes an especially courageous and valiant individual to serve their nation during wartime. Those that fought in foreign war years ago must have been particularly brave. Especially, when you think about all the technological and medical advances we’ve made since then.

There are literally hundreds of stars that have served their nation in some way shape or form. Actors, comedians, authors, and producers alike have taken on many different roles in the world’s various wars. In fact, some famous actors even found their inspiration for acting while deployed overseas. Then there were those who quit their acting careers to fight for their country. They too deserve our recognition. They left behind a life of fame and fortune to serve their fellow citizens.

We’ve tapped into the archives and come up with 11 celebrities who actually fought in foreign battles. I’d be willing to bet that you never knew about some of these folks’ military careers. Once you find out what sacrifices these people made for their country, you’ll be sure to see them through a different lens.

Kirk Douglas Sustained Injuries While Aboard A Ship Hunting For Japanese Submarines

Kirk Douglas might just be one of the most famous celebrity veterans featured in this video. He initially failed his dexterity test but that didn’t stop him. He went to Notre Dame to join the Navy instead of the Air Force. During his time in the Navy, he served as a gunnery and communications officer aboard the USS PC-1139.

In 1943, while on a mission to search for suspected Japanese submarines, Douglas was injured by a crew member. The cause is the accidental detonation of a depth charge near their ship. The crewman intends to fire a depth charge marker but once the mistake is made there is no undoing it. Douglas was violently thrown up against the ship and sustained severe abdominal injuries.

In 1981, Douglas’s prolific acting and military careers were both celebrated when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is the highest honor awarded to a civilian in America.

Tony Bennett Served in France and Germany During World War II

People don’t know that Tony Bennett’s career started when he served in the Army during World War II. Bennett enlisted in the war during its end. He was an infantryman for the 63rd Infantry Division. Their role as a division is to fill in for the heavy causalities. Those are sustained on the war’s front lines in France and Germany.

Bennett was one of those few brave soldiers that were sent to fight on the front lines. Most people in his shoes would have felt like they were handed a death sentence but somehow he managed to evade death. After the war, he would say that his experiences in the war are what motivated him to become and pacifist and devote his life to music. He just wanted to bring joy to the world.

Bennet is remembered for his role in the liberation of a German concentration camp. He’s also known for his 20 Grammy Awards, 2 Emmys, and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Oliver Stone Requested Combat Duty While In Vietnam

Most of us know Stone as an award-winning filmmaker. He’s brought us such unforgettable films as Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, and Scarface. Most folks probably are oblivious to the fact that he is also a Vietnam veteran. He enlisted in the Army in 1967 and specifically requested active combat duty when he signed up.

While serving he was injured in combat on two different occasions. He was transferred in 1968 to the 1st Cavalry, a platoon with specialty Long Range Reconnaissance training. After 15 months of high stakes service to his country, Stone was discharged and decorated with a Purple Heart with an Oak Leaf Cluster, denoting two distinct awards. Additionally, he was adorned with a Bronze Star with a V device – celebrating his extraordinary acts of valor – and a Vietnam Service Medal.

Jimmy Stewart Flew 20 Combat Missions In World War II

Jimmy was just an aspiring actor in the early 1930s, but by the end of the decade, he would also be a soldier. After starring in hit films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s A Wonderful Life left acting to join the Army Air Corps. After enlisting her became a World War II bomber pilot.

Stewart flew a B-24H with the 703rd Bomb Squadron. Throughout his service, he flew in 20 combat missions which included battles at German air bases, oil refineries, and ammunition bases. Once the war was finally over, Stewart stayed on the reserves list. In 1959, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. He flew his last mission in 1966 during the Vietnam War..

Gene Roddenberry Flew In 89 Air Force Combat Missions

Most people associate Roddenberry with the science-fiction franchise that he created. But before he introduced the world to Star Trek he was a fighter pilot for the Air Force that served in World War II. Roddenberry made the decision to enlist after the events that transpired at Pearl Harbor.

He was commissioned in 1942 and was posted to the Pacific Theater of Operations. There he joined the 394th Bomb Squadron. During his time in service, he flew a startling 89 combat missions. These missions were often quite dangerous.

Roddenberry achieved the rank of Captain and was decorated with the Flying Cross and the Air Medal. After the war was over he became a commercial pilot before finding success in the entertainment industry with his groundbreaking screenwriting.

James Doohan Was Shot Multiple Times On D Day

Speaking of Star Trek, before James Montgomery Doohan was Scottie, he was a lieutenant in the Canadian Royal Army and served during World War II. On D-Day, Montgomery helped his fellow soldiers navigate through a deadly minefield on Juno beach. During that battle, he was shot multiple times but still somehow managed to survive.

He was shot four times in one of his legs and another shot took off one of his middle fingers. Another bullet hit him directly in the chest but he was saved by a silver cigarette case in his pocket. Unfortunately, the shots all came from another soldier on his same side who apparently forgot for a moment who the enemy was.

Jason Robards Was On A Ship Hit By 2 Japanese Torpedoes

Robards was an accomplished actor and one of the few to ever achieve the Triple Crown – that is winning a competitive Academy Award, Emmy Award, and Tony Award in the acting categories. Before becoming an actor, Robards served in the Navy.

He was recruited shortly after graduating from high school in 1940. He was a 3rd class Radioman on the USS Northampton heavy cruiser. There were reports that the ship was near Pearl Harbor during it’s attack and shortly thereafter the vessel was assigned to the Guadalcanal campaign in the Pacific Theater.

During the battle of Santa Cruz, Robards ship was hit by two long-range Japanese Torpedoes. Despite sustaining injuries, Robards managed to survive the attack by treading water until he was saved by a US Destroyer ship hours later.

After serving on the USS Northampton, he continued his service on the USS Nashville. It was while he was on this ship that he discovered his love for acting. Legend has it that the acting spark was ignited within him after reading through a script of Eugene O’Neil’s stage play Strange Interlude.

Mel Brooks Disarmed Bombs For The Army

Brooks was just as good at defusing bombs as he was at making us laugh. During World War II he served in the 1104th Engineer Combat Battalion. His unit was tasked with deactivating land minds while avoiding sniper fire, clearing blocked roads, and building bridges. Brooks would use comedy to keep the morale up. After finishing up his tour of duty, Brookes went on to become one of the most successful filmmakers of his generation, earning himself a Tony, Oscar, Grammy, and numerous other awards.

Russel Johnson Plane Was Shot Down In The Philippines

Years before playing the Professor on Gilligans Island, Johnson was a B-24 bombardier in the Army Air Corps. During his service, he flew in 44 combat missions. On March 4, 1945, Johnson was flying as a navigator with the 13th Air Force when his and two other planes were shot down by the Japanese in the Philippine islands During his crash landing, Johnson’s co-pilot was sadly killed and Johnson himself broke both of his ankles. He was subsequently discharged as a 1st Lieutenant and awarded with the prestigious Purple Heart Medal.

James Arness Was Wounded In Anzio, Italy In World War II

Not long before taking the lead on Gunsmoke, James Arness served as a rifleman in the Army during the second world war. Arness enlisted in the Army in 1943. He had wanted to be a naval fighter pilot was turned down because of his height. After being assigned to the 2nd Platoon, E Company, he was sent to the beach of Anzio where he took part in the infamous Battle of Anzio. The battle raged on from January 22 to May 29 of 1944.

During the battle, Arness sustained heavy fire to the legs by German machine gunfire. His wounds were so serious that he had to be evacuated and was in recovery for more than a year and a half before being discharged.

His injuries would cause him to suffer for the rest of his life and left him with a limp. Arness was also awarded the esteemed Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his valor during the battle.

James Garner Received 2 Purple Hearts During the Korean War

Before pursuing a career in acting, Garner was a member of the Oklahoma Nation Guard before serving in the US Army. During his 14-month service to his nation, he fought as a rifleman for the 5th Regimental Combat Team in Korea.

He was wounded twice during his service. The first time, the injury was the result of a mortar round detonation leaving him with shrapnel embedded in his hand and face. The second time he was wounded was in a friendly fire incident that left him with a bullet in his butt. For his service in the war, Garner was awarded two Purple Hearts in addition to numerous other honors.

Well, here we are once again at the end of another facts-packed video.

Let’s take a moment to send our thanks to all of the courageous heroes that have put themselves in the line of danger in order to serve their country. Every celebrity that we discussed today deserves to be remembered for their service in war just as much as they are celebrated for their prestigious careers in the entertainment industry.

Which celeb’s military career were you most surprised to learn about, Jimmy Stewart? Mel Brooks?

Drop us a line in the comments section.

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